Catholic Hispanic ministry workers gathering at Regis University for 10 days to learn how to better serve their communities hope that knowledge will strengthen their ministries and the parishes they serve.
The Catholic Hispanic Leadership Program, which kicked off July 22 and is co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Denver and the university, covers leadership, faith and culture. Participants, many who are volunteers, will hear from experts on a number of topics, including finances, nonprofit management and decision making.
“The leadership program is a way to help people serving at the parish level,” said Luis Soto, executive director of Centro San Juan Diego, the Hispanic ministry center for the archdiocese. “The people participating are saying they want to do more; they want to learn more. They are hungry to learn.”
The inaugural year attracted 19 participants primarily from parishes in the archdiocese but three traveled from out of state, including a priest from Kansas City, a nun from Baltimore and a Hispanic ministry leader from Pennsylvania. A majority of the participants themselves have emigrated from Mexico, Peru, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
“As immigrants, we grew up in Latin America experiencing the Catholic Church there and it is different from the American Catholic Church,” Soto said. “I had to learn those differences firsthand because no one told me.”
One session includes how Hispanic ministries can improve fundraising. Many Hispanic parishioners will readily volunteer for manual labor, such as replacing a church’s roof, but giving monetary contributions is unfamiliar to many immigrants who came from poor countries, Soto said.
“Parishes don’t need to continue to make 1,000 tamales (for fundraisers) when there are many other ways to make money,” Soto said.
The group also plans to discuss the nuances of American politics and the emotional debate over immigration laws.
“I see this as a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of Hispanic ministry,” said participant Cynthia Castillo, director of religious education for Holy Rosary Parish in north Denver. “As leaders, we have a great responsibility for training.”
Castillo has spent the last four years building up trust with the Hispanic community and has seen more young members receive the sacraments of holy Communion and confirmation at the parish originally founded by Slavic immigrants.
“It’s been a huge challenge and so important,” she said.
Martha Jones, a Hispanic ministry leader at St. Pius X Parish in Aurora, said she looks forward to hearing experts give tips on helping her ministry grow.
“We can help our community if we better understand techniques for budgeting, fundraisers and other topics,” she said.
Regis University saw the leadership program as a good partnership with the archdiocese, said Tom Reynolds, university vice president for mission and ministry.
“Hispanics have an important role in the Catholic Church and the future of the Church,” said Reynolds, who welcomed the participants following Mass on July 22.
“We are honored and blessed to have you here,” he said.